Saving the World from Solomon Grundy (short essay #1)

18 Sep


Saving the World from Solomon Grundy

We killed Superman in 1992. A year later, we decided to break Batman’s back. “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”[1] These two heroes had been around since before the start of WWII; however in the 90’s, they were simply not what we wanted to read about. It is not surprising that the popularity of comics took a plunge during this decade. Most of us were too busy seizing our own destiny with a controller firmly in hand to really care. We certainly didn’t want to read about the heroes of our childhood, especially when we could become heroes ourselves on the other side of the screen. We were Generation X and we would not stand for any cookie-cutter heroes.

Video games consumed us.[2] I know that Chun-Li’s blood type is A (why do I know this?). Consumed. Nintendo pumped out the Super NES in the early 90’s and Playstation grabbed our attention in the middle of the decade. Gaming, unfortunately, cannot be held fully responsible for the decline of comics during the 90’s. The market was ripe for glutting. The comic companies continued to run an absurd amount of the issues that collectors thought would be valuable. The same thing happened to baseball cards during the late 80’s and early 90’s. The market was flooded. To compensate, the comic companies started producing limited edition alternatives to boost value. Gold, silver, and hologram covers could not cover the fact that comics themselves were absolute shit.

A new comic book company was formed called Image. Have you ever heard the saying, “Image isn’t everything”? Keep that in mind. Image comics took a lot of the fresh new artists and offered them a chance to flesh out some really nice looking characters. This split the talent pool; the old writers were left with no real artists and the artists couldn’t carry a storyline. The Image characters were great for posters but that was about it. I am sure it seemed to the comic companies that we wanted something edgier and they delivered. More and more companies sprouted up overnight in the hopes to sell us some sex and violence. The heroes’ muscles and guns got bigger; the heroines’ costumes all but disappeared (probably to make room for their huge chests). This is what we wanted, right? We weren’t reading it anyway; we just wanted it to look cool.

Superman wasn’t cool. Batman didn’t kill people. Hell, comics weren’t cool. I learned quickly that talking about comics at school was a quick ticket to being outcast (as if my playing Dungeons and Dragons and being in choir didn’t already punch my ticket). Now comic books are cool. Now. “Liking comic books is popular, environmental awareness, being tolerant. If I was just born ten years later, I would have been the coolest person ever.”[3] I started collecting a comic book called Gen X. Here is a quick rundown of some of the team: a girl who could literally pull her skin off to create something new underneath, a guy that was missing his lower jaw and had to cover his face, a girl with autism, a mindless girl with diamond hard skin. I am sure there is some psychology study here that would make my head spin, but the point is that these kids were a far cry from the alien known as Kal-El.

We couldn’t relate to Superman, so he had to die. He and Doomsday beat each other to death in the streets of Metropolis. He was replaced by four heroes, but it did not take long for the writers to understand that the world of comics needed Superman. Superman was resurrected within a year’s time. It took us five years to get tired of him again, and the writers split him into two separate entities with more limits on his powers, Red Superman and Blue Superman. We can’t forget about Batman. The Dark Knight was not dark enough for us, so we broke his back and put him out of commission. And who better to break the bat than a villain that is pumped full of steroids? We replaced Batman with Azrael, a crime-fighter that did not share Batman’s aversion to killing. Azrael was the Batman we thought we wanted. “I don’t want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone’s really hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated R movie, you know, the guy you’re not sure whether or not you like yet.”[4] However, we quickly realized that if he killed all the bad guys… well, there wouldn’t be any more bad guys. Lucky for us, Batman healed up and kicked Azrael’s ass into submission.

We killed Superman in 1992. A year later, we decided to break Batman’s back. If we don’t pull our heads away from our televisions and gaming, our icons will slowly disappear. Then, it won’t be long before the ideals that these characters stood for follow suit.

[1] Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

[2] Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A-Select-Start (you know what I am talking about)

[3] 21 Jump Street (2012)

[4] Swingers (1996)


Posted by on September 18, 2014 in Penn's Diary


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9 responses to “Saving the World from Solomon Grundy (short essay #1)

  1. Paul Davis

    September 18, 2014 at 11:03 am

    You’re my hero. That was an incredible paper. Wish I wrote more of these in my college days. Most exciting I was able to land was how to breed chocobos.

    • Len

      September 18, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Sounds interesting, though. I like chocobos.
      How are things?

      • Paul Davis

        September 18, 2014 at 11:07 am

        I’m ill. But the congestion is slowly clearing up. Otherwise going well. Looks like you’re back in full swing of school. All well on the home front?

      • Len

        September 18, 2014 at 11:09 am

        Yeah, I have to do well in school this semester. I already lost my financial aid due to low GPA, so I had to tighten up. My writing has taken a back seat to my teachers’ desires.
        Get better.

  2. disperser

    September 18, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    The thing with those heroes (both Superman and Batman) is that when they did not kill, more people got hurt.

    Not much in the way of heroes, at least in my book.

    The real world analogy is the criminal who gets out of jail only to rape, hurt, or even kills someone. There are no easy answer, and the blind “no-killing” thing is just that; an easy answer.

    Sometimes the hero needs to be concerned with something more than just his or her own image.

    However, on the writing front, nice essay. I would lose the word “shit” as it seems out of place with the rest of the writing.

    • Len

      September 18, 2014 at 4:19 pm


    • jdtcreates

      September 24, 2014 at 9:42 am

      A problem like this came up in an animated special called Superman vs The Elite, which I’m sure was adapted from a comic storyline. You can argue whether the film excuted its point across but it did bring up some things.
      One is the no killing answer is more of a step in a process. In all honesty, its a bad idea to have a superhuman going around killing technically anyone he wants due their moral code. Mainly there is no guarantee that nothing you see on the job can’t change that, it’s one of the few things that keeps Batman from thinking he’s as obsessed as his rogues gallery.
      Going back to the movie, when Superman apprehended the villian, where was the states responsibility, they are the judge, jury, and executioner. And if they couldn’t kill him, then they could always get a superhuman who can, but thats another storyline.

  3. debyfredericks

    September 18, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Nice analysis, Len. I recall clearly that this was when I stopped reading comics after almost 20 years. Pointless violence doesn’t interest me. Scanty costumes can’t make up for empty writing. In comics, storytelling and character matters more than costumes.

    But, for what it’s worth, I’m convinced they meant to bring Superman and Batman back all along. As with, more recently, Captain America.

  4. robertsonwrites

    September 21, 2014 at 2:34 am

    Len, consider this a well-deserved high-five, or fist pound, if that is your thing. This was excellent. I should have also been born ten years later. I was geek in choir, playing DnD, and reading comics in my bedroom (when I wasn’t writing furiously on my first novel). Oh – the days of awkward adolescence.


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